Keyword Cannibalization: 5 Ways To Find Cannibalization Issues In 2023

Having multiple pages on a website that discuss the same thing can affect search engine rankings. They can lead to undesirable rankings of the website and can even affect the website’s credibility. In this article, you will learn more about keyword cannibalization and how it affects your website’s SEO

In this article

  1. What is Keyword Cannibalization?
  2. Is Keyword Cannibalization Bad For SEO?
  3. Examples For Keyword Cannibalization
  4. How To Find Keyword Cannibalization issues
  5. How to Fix Keyword Cannibalization on Your Site
  6. Things You Should Not Do When Correcting Keyword Cannibalization
  7. Keyword Cannibalization In SEO
  8. Related Reads

What Is Keyword Cannibalization?

Keyword cannibalization occurs when a website with multiple pages targets the same or similar keywords. This makes the pages start competing against each other, hurting the website’s organic traffic in search engines. One of the pages will affect another’s ability to rank and will inevitably hurt its rankings in the search results. 

For example,  a website uses Anchor text as the target keyword and writes an article about it. After a few years, the owner might decide to write another article using the same keyword instead of updating the existing one. If both posts have the same keyword, title, and similar content, it can affect the rankings. This is called keyword cannibalization. 

But if you have two pages on your website with different search intent, you can optimize them and get a better ranking. Search intent also matters in keyword cannibalization because two pages with similar content, the same or similar keyword, and, most importantly, the same search intent are bad for each other and, ultimately, the website. 

Is Keyword Cannibalization Bad For SEO?

The short answer is yes. You simply cannot have two pages that talk about the same thing unless they have different search intent. However, there is another side to this. If two pages compete for the same keyword but don’t hurt SEO, you have nothing to worry about. The problem arises when multiple pages target the same keyword, hurting the website’s organic traffic

For example, say you have two articles on your website targeting the same keyword, and one ranks #1, but the other is nowhere to be found; it doesn’t rank in the search results. Essentially, what is happening here is the page with the #1 ranking is “cannibalizing” the other page. The real issue is not just the existence of these two pages but the consequences of that. If you were to delete one of the pages, you would see a drop in rankings and traffic. 

One of the two pages could rank higher than the other, while one could rank lower, thus cannibalizing each other and affecting the rankings. 

Examples Of Keyword Cannibalization

Keyword cannibalization can create confusion and decrease the website’s performance on the search engine results page. These are some of the common issues arising from keyword cannibalization: 

  1. Ranking URLs that constantly change
  2. Fluctuations in the ranking positions
  3. Difficulty for ranking words to increase 
  4. The wrong URLs rank

How To Find Keyword Cannibalization Issues

5 Ways to find keyword cannibalization issues

Finding keyword cannibalization issues can be tricky in some cases because sometimes, two or more pages may have the same keyword but different intent. It is best to leave these pages because you can gain more from them than you would from losing them.

Here are 5 ways to find keyword cannibalization issues:

1. Content Audit

You can easily spot cannibalization issues by conducting a website content audit (examining a website’s performance and seeing if it complies with SEO best practices). Unless the website is really big, it shouldn’t be hard to spot. 

2. Check Historic Rankings

You can find cannibalization issues by checking the historical rankings of specific keywords. You can use keywords explorer tools like Ahrefs or Google search console to get a complete keyword history and rankings list.

3. Running a site: search

You can find keyword cannibalization issues by running a site search. To do this, head to Google and search for “topic name.” This will bring up all the related topics that are on your website. 

4. Run a site search by removing the host clustering

Running a site search can help find potential cannibalization issues. Still, Google will bring up any search results that are similar to each other, meaning similar pages will come up in the search results, but all of them will be merged together. You can use a site search and remove the host clustering to get results that are easy to find by giving them a sense of place. 

5. Check for URLs with multiple rankings

A keyword with multiple URLs ranked by Google is a clear sign of a keyword cannibalization issue. To find them, you need to go to a site explorer tool. For example, if you use Ahrefs,  enter your domain name, head to the organic keywords report, and then toggle on “multiple URLs only.”

Keep in mind that this method might not always work as Google tends not to rank multiple pages that belong to the same host. But it is always worth checking.

How to Fix Keyword Cannibalization on Your Site

If you are certain you have keyword cannibalization issues on your site, you can fix them by consolidating the pages. This means you can redirect the old page’s links to something new and relevant or combine multiple pages into one, like an ultimate guide. Another solution is to increase the number of relevant keywords. If the content has been active on your page for a long time, you can update it by adding new relevant keywords.

Either of these two options is good and can have a positive impact. This is mainly because when merging pages, you would merge backlinks and internal links into a single page rather than distributing them across multiple pages. 

The solution can be simple, but there are many more things to consider when fixing an issue like this. For example, there may be times when two similar pages might be ranking well. Sometimes, the keyword of one article might rank higher, but the traffic may be high. The reason for this is they might have different search intent. If you consolidate the two pages, you might lose some traffic.

If you are 100% certain you are losing value because of a low-value blog post, you can delete it and redirect it to your landing page. Note that this applies only to situations where you feel the blog post, and its traffic doesn’t offer any value to your website. 

Things You Should Not Do When Correcting Keyword Cannibalization

These are things you should avoid if you encounter keyword cannibalization on your website.

1. Deleting the pages

Deleting the pages is not a good solution unless they offer no value to the website. 

2. Noindexing the page

Noindexing means search engines will drop the page from their index. This is not a good way to fix cannibalization issues. 

Keyword Cannibalization In SEO

Keyword cannibalization is an issue, but only if it is on the pages that bring value to your website. It remains a problem that causes confusion among search engines and webmasters. Google knows which articles to rank and which not to, but that doesn’t mean you should neglect them. The best way to go is to make sure the pages on your website have all the information and then, later on, update them if necessary. 

Related Reads

Keyword Clustering: Why Are They Essential For Content Marketers In 2023?

What Are Branded Keywords and Why Are They Essential?

SEO Keywords to Use for Meta Descriptions

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